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381 Phil. 300


[ G.R. No. 124832, February 01, 2000 ]




For acceding to a request to massage the stomach of a neighbor's wife who was purportedly suffering abdominal pains, Conchita Mahomoc got raped instead. Charged for the crime was the neighbor, Dante Cepeda y Sapotalo in an Information alleging -
That on or about the 2nd day of April 1994 in Barangay Buhang, Magallanes, Agusan del Norte, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, said accused, armed with a knife, by means of force and intimidation, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously have carnal knowledge of Conchita Mahomoc, against her will.

Upon arraignment, accused assisted by counsel pleaded not guilty to the crime charged.[2] The case then proceeded to trial after which the court a quo rendered judgment,[3] the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the Court hereby finds accused DANTE CEPEDA y SAPOTALO GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape and accordingly sentences him to suffer the penalty of RECLUSION PERPETUA. He shall serve his sentence entirely at the Davao Prison and Penal Farm, Panabo, Davao del Norte. In addition, the accused is ordered to pay the offended party moral damages in the sum of P50,000.00.[4] The accused is entitled to the full benefits of his preventive imprisonment if he agrees to abide by the same disciplinary rules imposed upon convicted prisoners, conformably with Article 29 (as amended) of the Revised Penal Code. Accused is also ordered to pay the costs.

Dissatisfied, accused interposed this appeal ascribing a lone assignment of error which asserts that -
The trial court summed the versions of both prosecution and defense thus:
On April 4, 1994, Conchita Mahomoc went to the PNP Station of Magallanes to complain that she was raped by Dante Cepeda. On April 5, 1994, she signed her Complaint and swore to it before MCTC Clerk of Court Gad B. Curaza. She claims that at about 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon of April 2, 1994, Dante Cepeda went to her house at Buhang, Magallanes, Agusan del Norte, and asked her to [go to] his house to massage (hilot) his wife who was suffering from stomach ache. Regina Carba, her neighbor, was in her house and she asked her to go with her. Cepeda was at his kitchen door when they reached his house. He told Gina to leave as his wife, who was Muslim, would get angry if there were many people in their home. He insisted on this many times so that Gina had to leave. Cepeda led the complainant to his bedroom. At the door, Conchita peeped inside and saw a figure covered by a blanket whom she presumed was Cepeda's wife. At that instance, accused immediately placed his left arm around her shoulders and pointed a knife at the pit of her stomach saying: "Just keep quiet, do not make any noise, otherwise I will kill you." She elbowed him, stooped and shouted "Help!" three times but Cepeda covered her mouth then carried her to the room by her armpits. Shaking herself free from his grasp, she hit her left shin at the edge of the floor of the bedroom. Inside the room, he threatened her with a knife and ordered her to remove her panty and lie on the bed. Afraid, she did as ordered and the accused also removed his pants and brief. He placed himself on top of her, spread her legs with his legs, inserted his penis inside her vagina and had sexual intercourse with her at the same time embracing and kissing her. After he was through, she ran towards the kitchen with Cepeda chasing her.

Regina Carba confirmed this narration of the complainant on the aspect that at [a]bout 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon of April 2, 1994, she was at Conchita's house to discuss the gift they would give their neighbor who was getting married. Cepeda arrived and asked Conchita to give his wife a massage as she was having stomach pains. Conchita had been a masseuse since 1979. On complainant's request, she accompanied her to Cepeda's house. Upon arrival, the accused told her to leave as his Muslim wife gets angry when there are plenty of people in their house. Both she and Conchita protested but Cepeda insisted on it several times forcing her to leave the house of the accused.

Veronica Delmiguiz declared that at about 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon of April 2, 1994, she heard a shout for help from the house of Cepeda. She looked and saw that the windows were closed. She did not give it a second thought thinking that it was a family trouble as she has heard Cepeda and his wife quarrel on previous occasions. Helen Antolijao co-executed an affidavit with Veronica Delminguiz on April 5, 1994 but was not anymore presented by the prosecution as her testimony would only corroborate that of Delminguiz.

x x x    x x x    x x x

This charge is refuted by the accused claiming that he and Conchita are lovers. He came to know her as he passes by her house in going to his place of work. He began working with EMCO in the month of February 1994. The complainant has gone to their house four times in February 1994, first to sell Herway cosmetics, the second time to sell "chorizo", the third time to sell fish and the fourth time to sell clothing materials. He was present in their house only on the first occasion that complainant had gone there. He knew of the other occasions because his wife told him. The fifth time the complainant went to their house on March 6, he courted her by saying: "Sing, I knew that you like me and I like you." Then they had sexual intercourse. The next time Conchita came to see him and had sexual intercourse with Him was on March 13, then March 17, March 29 and March 27 when on this date, she asked him to leave his wife to elope with her as she would also leave her husband. He rejected this proposal because he loved his wife and Conchita had three daughters. Conchita, according to him, was displeased because he would not elope with her. On April 2, 1994, Conchita again came to his house and while they were petting, somebody outside his house said: "You there, what are you doing? At this Conchita left his house and went home. At about 10:00 o'clock that evening, he was arrested.

The accused's wife, Dory Cepeda, testified that indeed the complainant has gone to their house four times in the month of February and on these occasions, her husband was at home. Her husband started working with EMCO in the month of March while she began working as a baby sitter also in the month of March, 1994."
On the basis of the foregoing factual summation, the trial court rendered judgment against accused Dante Cepeda as stated at the outset.

Insisting on his innocence, accused-appellant claims in his defense that he and private complainant were carrying on an adulterous love affair. According to him, his request to private complainant that the latter massage his allegedly ill wife "is a pre-arranged lie between the accused-appellant and private complainant in order to mislead Regina Carba" the truth being that accused-appellant "purposely went to the house of private complainant to invite her to his house, their place of rendezvous for their passionate affair."[6] He asserts that the charge of rape was "a contrivance or an afterthought rather than a truthful plaint for redress of an actual wrong"[7] because private complainant "feeling guilty of such an adulterous affair and out of fear that Regina might have suspected something between her and the accused-appellant, thought of accusing her paramour of rape in anticipation of the possible retribution by her husband should he later on discover their relationships."[8]

Guided by the three (3) principles in the review of rape cases, namely, that -
An accusation for rape can be made with facility; it is difficult to prove but more difficult for the person accused, though innocent to disprove;

In view of the intrinsic nature of the crime of rape where only two persons are usually involved, the testimony of the complainant is scrutinized with extreme caution; and

The evidence of the prosecution stands or fall on its own merits and can not be allowed to draw strength from weakness of the defense.[9]
We find the appeal bereft of merit.

Accused-appellant's allegation of an illicit amorous relationship is too shopworn to deserve serious consideration and is totally unworthy of credence. A circumspect scrutiny of the record discloses that the 'illicit love affair' angle appears as a fabrication by accused- appellant. As an affirmative defense, the alleged 'love affair' needs convincing proof.[10] Having admitted to having had carnal knowledge of the complainant several times,[11] accused-appellant bears the burden of proving his defense by substantial evidence.[12] The record shows that other than his self-serving assertions, there is no evidence to support the claim that accused-appellant and private complainant were in love.

It must be noted that accused-appellant and private complainant are both married and are living together with their respective spouses.[13] In this case, other than accused-appellant's self-serving testimony, no other evidence like love letters, mementos or pictures were presented to prove his alleged amorous relationship with private complainant. Neither was there any corroborative testimony supporting this pretended illicit affair. If accused-appellant were really the paramour of private complainant, she would not have gone to the extent of bringing this criminal action which inevitably exposed her to humiliation of recounting in public the violation of her womanhood. Moreover, she would not have implicated a person, who is allegedly her lover, as the perpetrator of an abominable crime and thereby lay open their illicit relationship to public shame and ridicule not to mention the ire of a cuckolded husband and the withering contempt of her children were it not the truth.[14]

Evidence to be believed must not only come from a credible source but must also be credible in itself such as one that the common experience and observation of mankind can approve as probable under the circumstances.[15] The Court has taken judicial cognizance of the fact that in rural areas in this country, women by custom and tradition act with circumspection and prudence, and that great caution is observed so that their reputation remains untainted.[16] Such circumspection must have prompted the victim to request Regina Carba to accompany her on the errand of mercy to accused- appellant's house. Unfortunately, Carba was shooed away by accused-appellant on the pretext that his wife who was a Muslim was averse to having too many people in their house.

Even assuming ex gratia argumenti that accused- appellant and private complainant were indeed sweethearts as he claims, this fact alone will not extricate him from his predicament. The mere assertion of a 'love relationship' would not necessarily rule out the use of force to consummate the crime.[17] It must be stressed that in rape cases, the gravamen of the offense is sexual intercourse with a woman against her will or without her consent.[18] Thus, granting arguendo that the accused and the victim were really lovers this Court has reiterated time and again that "[A] sweetheart cannot be forced to have sex against her will. Definitely, a man cannot demand sexual gratification from a fiancee, worse, employ violence upon her on the pretext of love. Love is not a license for lust."[19]

Succinctly stated, in rape the prosecution must rule out the victim's consent to the sexual act.[20] In the case at bar, the testimony of private complainant was clear: she did not consent to penile invasion.[21] Assuming for argument's sake that accused-appellant and private complainant were sweethearts, rape was nevertheless committed because accused-appellant had sex with the victim by force and against her will.[22]

Indeed, unless deeply wronged and aggrieved, private complainant would not have instituted this case at all. That the victim had been married to her husband for seventeen (17) years and is a mother of four (4) children whose ages at the time ranged from seventeen (17), sixteen (16), fourteen (14) and ten (10),[23] rendered her exposure to public trial of rape all the more embarrassing and painful.

As aptly pointed out in People v. Mendoza,[24] a married woman with a husband and three (3) daughters would not , publicly admit that she had been criminally abused unless that was the truth. Similarly, it defies reason in this case why a mother of four (4) would concoct a story of defloration, allow the examination of her private parts[25] and publicly disclose that she has been sexually abused if her motive were other than to fight for her honor and bring to justice the person who defiled her.[26] Thus not surprisingly when she was queried as to how much would she claim for her defilement in terms of moral damages, she emphatically declared as follows:
If you were to ask for moral damages from the court, how much would you claim for moral damages?
I do not need payment it is Justice that I ask.[27]
She, likewise, flatly denied the existence of an illicit affair with the accused-appellant in face of the not too subtle insinuations of defense counsel to this effect on cross-examination, viz:
I will ask you a candid question, Mrs. Marohomoc. Is it not a fact that at one time you gifted Dante Cepeda with a Herway lotion?
No, sir.

So you will also deny that you gifted him with Mark cigarettes.
Oh no![28]
In a prosecution for rape, the evaluation of the evidence presented during trial ultimately revolves around the credibility of the complaining witness.[29] When a woman says she has been raped, she says in effect all that is necessary to show that she has been raped and her testimony alone is sufficient if it satisfies the exacting standard of credibility needed to convict the accused.[30]

In scrutinizing the credibility of witnesses, case law has established the following doctrinal guidelines: first, the appellate tribunal will not disturb the findings of the lower court unless there is a showing that it had overlooked, misunderstood, or misapplied some fact or circumstance of weight and substance that would have affected the result of the case; second, the findings of the trial court pertaining to the credibility of witnesses are entitled to great respect and even finality since it had the opportunity to examine their demeanor as they testified on the witness stand; and third, a witness who testified in a categorical, straightforward, spontaneous and frank manner and remained consistent on cross-examination is a credible witness.[31]

Applying these guidelines, we find no reason to disturb the following findings and conclusions of the trial court:
From the evidence of both the prosecution and the defense, the Court could make out this deduction: from the accused's heart sprang this evil desire and he contrived a plan to rape the complainant. He made up a story about his wife being in pain and shaped a mat covered with a blanket thus making it appear that his wife as in bed. He closed all the windows of his house so no one could see what happened inside. What he did not expect though was the presence of Regina Carba in the house of the complainant so that he again had to make up another tale about his wife being a Muslim to get rid of Carba. Without any "illicit relationship" having been established between the accused and the complainant before April 2, 1994, what is the basis for the sexual intercourse on that day? The complainant says "rape" and the Court agrees. The Court just cannot believe that a mother of four would demand from a man who became her neighbor for only about one and a half months to elope with her. There is no evidence that her relationship with her husband was on the rocks. Rather, as soon as her husband arrived from work, she reported to him the abuse she suffered from the hands of the accused and a commotion ensued because of the husband's anger. From the accused's own mouth, he had been convicted once for possession of "indian pana" and had been transferring from one place to another, without a permanent home, while the complainant has established her home in Magallanes and is secure therein together with her family. A Filipina woman, especially a mother of three daughters, would not bring herself, her family and her husband to embarrassment, to public scrutiny and being the talk of the community unless what she had testified that she was raped is true.[32] If, in the remote possibility, complainant had voluntarily consented to have sex with him, her most natural reaction would have been to conceal it or keep silent as this would bring disgrace to her honor and reputation, as well as to her family.[33]

The conscience of the Court will be very much at ease with a finding that the accused is guilty. It could not decree an acquittal based on lies for falsehood is the anathema of justice. There can be no justice based on lies.
To restate what had been said earlier, it is highly inconceivable vis-a-vis the prevailing facts of the case for the victim to conjure a tale of ravishment and, in the process, subject herself and her family to the disgrace, social humiliation and trauma attendant to a prosecution for rape as well as the stigma of a lifetime of shame incident thereto.[34] Furthermore, the conduct of the victim immediately following the alleged assault is of utmost important so as to establish the truth or falsity of the charges of rape.[35] In this case, we find the private complainant's prompt report of her defilement to her husband as well as the authorities as convincing indications that she has been truly wronged. A complainant's act in immediately reporting the commission, of rape has been considered by this Court as a factor strengthening her credibility.[36]

With regard to the civil liability, however, the trial court's award of damages should be modified. Under controlling case law, an award of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as civil indemnity is mandatory upon the finding of the fact of rape.[37] This is exclusive of the award of moral damages of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) without need of further proof.[38] The victims' injury is now recognized as inherently concomitant with and necessarily proceeds from the appalling crime of rape which per se, warrants an award for moral damages.[39]

WHEREFORE, with the sole MODIFICATION that accused-appellant Dante Cepeda y Sapotalo pay complainant the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as civil indemnity consistent with controlling case law, aside from the award of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as moral damages, the decision of the trial court in Criminal Case No. 6246 finding accused Dante Cepeda y Sapotalo guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape is hereby AFFIRMED in all other respects.


Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Puno, Kapunan, and Pardo, JJ., concur.

[1] Record, p. 1.

[2] Ibid., p. 21.

[3] Id., pp. 74-82.

[4] Citing People v. Tani, 244 SCRA 1 (1995)

[5] Record, p. 82.

[6] Appellant's Brief, p. 7; Rollo, p. 53.

[7] Ibid., p. 10; rollo, p. 56, citing People v. Godoy, 250 SCRA 676 (1995)

[8] Id.

[9] People v. Larry Mahinay y Amparado, G.R. No.122485, 1 February 1999, 302 SCRA 455, citing People v. Gallo, 284 SCRA 590 (1998); People v. Roque Celis, et al., G.R. Nos. 125307-09, 20 October 1999, p. 12, citing People v, Monfero, G.R. No. 126367, 17 June 1999, citing People v. Butron, 272 SCRA 352 (1997); People v. Ramirez, 266 SCRA 335 [1997]; People v. Alitagtag, G.R. Nos. 124449- 51, 29 June 1999, citing People v. De Guzman, 265 SCRA 228 (1996)

[10] People v. Monfero, supra.

[11] TSN, 10 May 1995, pp. 4-9.

[12] People v. Palma, G.R. Nos. 130206-08, 17 June 1999, p. 15, citing People v. Bayani, 262 SCRA 660 (1996)

[13] TSN, 10 May 1995, p. 2; 26 April 1996, pp. 2-3; 28 September 1994, p. 7.

[14] See People v. Venerable, 290 SCRA 15 (1998)

[15] Cosep v. People, 290 SCRA 378 (1998)

[16] People v. Edualino, 271 SCRA 189 (1997)

[17] People v. Betonio, 279 SCRA 532 (1997)

[18] People v. Igat, 291 SCRA 100 (1998)

[19] People v. Manuel Manahan @ Maning, G.R. No.128157, 29 September 1999, p. 6, citing People v. Tismo, 204 SCRA 535 (1991); People v. Rolando Perez y Espiritu, G.R. No.128870, 27 October 1999, citing People v. Tayaban, 296 SCRA 497 (1998), in turn citing People v. Domingo, 226 SCRA 156 (1993); see also People v. Acabo, 259 SCRA 75 (1996); People v. Laray, 253 SCRA 654 [1996]; People v. Vallena, 244 SCRA 685 (1995); People v. Tacipit, 242 SCRA 241 (1995)

[20] People v. Sta. Ana, 291 SCRA 188 (1997)

[21] TSN, 28 September 1994, pp. 9-10, 12-13, 24-27.

[22] People v. Domingo Papaguitan @ Pingkong, et al., G.R. No.116599, 27 September 1999, pp. 9-10, citing People v. Cabel, 282 SCRA 410 (1997)

[23] TSN, 28 September 1994, pp. 12-13, 25.

[24] 292 SCRA 168 (1998)

[25] TSN, 28 September 1994, pp. 3, 5-6.

[26] People v. Enlesto Rosales y Rivera, G.R. No.124920, 8 September 1999, pp. 7-8, citing People v. Buyok, 235 SCRA 622 (1994); People v. San Juan, 270 SCRA 693 (1997); People v. Escober, 281 SCRA 438 (1997)

[27] TSN, 28 September 1994, p. 15; italics supplied.

[28] TSN, 28 September 1994, pp. 24-25.

[29] People v. Soriano, 272 SCRA 760 (1997)

[30] People v. Bobby Agunos, G.R. No. 130961, 13 October 1999, p. 1; People v. Apilo, 263 SCRA 582 (1996)

[31] People v. Vergilio Reyes y Loresca, G.R. No. 113781, 30 September 1999, p. 9, citing People v. Banago, G.R. No. 128834, 29 June 1999, p. 5, citing People v. Galimba, 253 SCRA 722 (1996)

[32] People v. Vallena, 244 SCRA 685 (1995)

[33] People v. Vallena, supra.

[34] People v. Dominador Tabion, G.R. No. 132715, 20 October 1999.

[35] People v. Lamarroza, G.R. No. 126121, 24 November 1998, 299 SCRA 116, citing People v. Bawar, 262 SCRA 365 (1996)

[36] People v. Perez, 296 SCRA 17 (1998), citing People v. Jaca, 229 SCRA 332 (1994)

[37] People v. Maglente, G.R. Nos. 124559-66, 30 April 1999, p. 36; People v. Gementiza, 285 SCRA 478 (1998)

[38] People v. Alba, G.R. Nos. 131858-59, 14 April 1999, p. 21; People v. Medina, G.R. No. 126575, 11 December 1998, 300 SCRA 98; People v. Ramos, 296 SCRA 559 (1998); People v. Prades, 293 SCRA 411 (1998)

[39] People v. Joaquin Caratay @ Jack, G.R. Nos. 119418, 119436-37, 5 October 1999, pp. 17-18, citing, People v. Bolatete, G.R. No. 127570, 25 February 1999, p. 23.

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